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Response for Graduates: Matthew Hayes, BSAST ’14 and MSAST ‘14


Matthew Hayes ’14 | Nuclear Energy Technology Management

Energized to the Core

Matthew Hayes and Paul Breidenbach know how to light up a room. You would expect nothing less from men who help to safely generate thousands of megawatts of power every day.

Matthew Hayes is radiation protection manager at South Texas Project Nuclear Operating Company in Wadsworth, Texas and a certified radiation protection technologist. Paul Breidenbach is an instructor at Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG) Nuclear in Lower Alloways Creek, N.J., where he trains reactor operators.

“It is a technically challenging industry, but it is also incredibly rewarding,” said Hayes, a Navy veteran who served on the USS John C. Stennis. “I like working in the nuclear industry because of the people. The nuclear industry has some of the brightest people in the world.”

Paul Breidenbach also lauded the talented people he works with who help keep the lights on.

“The industry prides itself on professionalism and integrity,” he said. “You really have to be both technically and mentally sharp. The best part of the nuclear industry is the people that I work with.”

Hayes grew up in Adrian, Mich. After high school, Hayes enlisted in the U.S. Navy, where he was accepted into the prestigious Nuclear Power Program. He served six years as a Navy nuclear engineer and earned his Bachelor of Science in Applied Science and Technology degree in Nuclear Engineering Technology in 2010 as well as a Bachelor of Science in Applied Science and Technology degree in Nuclear Energy Engineering Technology (ABET accredited) and a Master of Science in Applied Science and Technology degree in 2014.

“Thomas Edison State University works because it has evaluated the Navy's power program and accepts this comprehensive training as credit toward the degree,” said Hayes. “This is critical, because working adults who have completed this specialized training do not have to start at a freshmen level.”

Breidenbach grew up in Tiffin, Ohio. After high school, he was awarded a scholarship to Terra Community College in Fremont, Ohio, and earned an associate degree in nuclear technology before joining the Navy. Breidenbach also graduated from the Nuclear Power Program. He joined PSEG Nuclear after six years of service and completed his Bachelor of Science in Applied Science and Technology degree in Nuclear Engineering Technology in 2002.

Dr. Thomas Devine, associate dean of the School of Applied Science and Technology, said Hayes and Breidenbach are part of a unique group of Thomas Edison State University graduates who play a critical role bringing nuclear power plants to life throughout the United States.

“The University is one of the largest degree providers for nuclear professionals working in America today,” said Devine. “Our program serves the needs of professionals in the nuclear industry like no other program in the world.”

In addition to the Navy's Nuclear Power Program, the University has completed a specialized assessment of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO), which enables students to earn credit for nuclear utility training that has been accredited by INPO for several nuclear utility occupational tracks.

“Our specialized assessments enable students to earn credit for their nuclear training that can be applied to general education and area of study requirements in our nuclear programs,” said Devine. “This makes Thomas Edison State University a great fit for nuclear professionals interested in advancing their education.”

What also attracts nuclear professionals interested in earning a degree to Thomas Edison State University is accreditation. The University's bachelor's degree in Nuclear Energy Engineering Technology is accredited by the Engineering Technology Accreditation Commission of ABET.

Education is critical to the industry. Both the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the American National Standards Institute have established education requirements for several occupations in the nuclear power field. Some, including reactor operator and senior reactor operator, now require a bachelor's degree to sit for the exam to earn licensures needed for those occupations.

“Thomas Edison State University recognizes the importance of expertise developed in the field and the challenges adults face pursuing their education with family and work responsibilities,” said Breidenbach. “Earning my bachelor's degree was a personal goal that has opened many other opportunities for me here at PSEG Nuclear.”

The University is also partnering with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to create degree templates that are aligned with the Nuclear Uniform Curriculum Program, an industry-led partnership involving community colleges designed to prepare students to enter the nuclear workforce.

The Nuclear Energy Institute estimates that nearly 38 percent of the nuclear industry workforce will be eligible to retire within the next five years, and to maintain the current workforce the industry will need to hire approximately 25,000 highly trained workers by 2015.

In addition, approximately 19 new nuclear plants are planned to be built in the next several years, including some that are already under construction. The University has developed articulation agreements for 35 community colleges throughout the country that are participating in the effort. The University finalized its first partnership with Salem Community College in New Jersey. It currently has several other agreements in place with other two-year institutions and hopes to finalize agreements with all community colleges currently in the Nuclear Uniform Curriculum Program.

“It's an exciting time in the nuclear field and Thomas Edison State University is playing an important role helping the industry meet labor challenges,” said Dr. Richard Coe, assistant dean of the School of Applied Science and Technology, who oversees nuclear programs at Thomas Edison State University. “The industry has a need to develop workers today for our existing plants and new workers for the new facilities that are being developed.”

One of the key differences about today's landscape is the requirements for bachelor's degrees in technical fields for several occupations, which were not in place during the nuclear industry's initial boom years of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

“Thomas Edison State University provides the type of student that employers are looking for,” said Hayes. “Graduates have work experience in the nuclear field and they have demonstrated the ability to go back and finish a college degree while working full time. This separates the kids from the adults.”